A smoke alarm beeping is a sound crews hope to hear every time they respond to a fire. They know it gives a family inside more time to get out. But training on Wednesday was about what crews don't know.
Davenport Fire Marshal Mike Hayman says, "It's huge for us to be able to see fire behavior, how it works, how things are gonna develop in a fire. Typically we're there and the fire's already out. So this is our chance to see it develop."
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance put on the training for firefighters, police officers, EMTs and insurance adjusters. Director of Special Investigations David Miller says, "They need to know what's in the building for their safety, for their life basically." And for the people who may be inside.
It's why instructors set two identical rooms on fire. One has sprinklers. The other does not. Trainers say, after just minutes, the ceiling in the non-sprinkler room is at 2,000 degrees. But in the room with sprinklers activated, the ceiling temperature is 150 degrees. The floor is just 95. Miller points to the end table and then the plastic TV. "There's no heat damage to it."
But then instructors move to a room with nothing in it. Crews light a plastic bag filled with napkins and paper cups. It is the only thing in a room made of high density polyethylene. The plastic is typically used in hog confinements, but also in hallways and bathrooms because it's easy to wipe clean.
Soon, the bag is gone. Only the wall is sustaining the fire. Flames are shooting toward the ceiling. Big pieces of plastic are melting and dripping from it. Miller says it's the first time instructors have tried this. "It was a shock for all of us, how fast it went."
And crews say this is a lesson. "Quite often we hear, well there's nothing in the room, so it can't burn," Hayman says. "Well you saw, and it can burn." That's something he wants homeowners to think about . He says paying a little more for building supplies is worth it, if it means saving a life.
Along with showing firefighters what flames do before they arrive on scene, instructors say this training also helps them with the after. It helps them determine how a fire started.